The Savior has drunk, to the full, the cup of God’s wrath so that we might drink, to the full, the cup of his blessings. We must learn again and again to remember what it is that we deserve from the hand of God and what our Savior took upon himself for our salvation. It is only as we do so that we are drawn into deeper communion with him.
If you were hoping to read a post about the temperance movement, wineries, microbrews or an illegitimate use of the Bible to fuel the health food revolution (or perhaps I should have said, “health food religion”), then you could be disappointed. If, however, you are looking for an explanation about what the Scriptures tell us that Jesus drank when he spoke of “this cup” (Matt. 26:39), then my hope is that you’ll find this to be one of the richest subjects for the well-being of your soul. How are we to know what Jesus meant when he spoke of “the cup” that he had to drink?
When he entered the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus went away by himself and prayed to his Father, “‘If it is possible, let this cup pass from me’” (Matt. 26:39). As he left the garden to head to the cross, our Lord said to his disciples, “‘Shall I not drink the cup that my Father has given me?’” (John 18:11). Simply put, “the cup” was nothing less than the full outpouring of the wrath of God against the sin of his people. We understand this both from what the Old Testament prophets foretold about that cup and from the impact that it had on the soul of our Lord when he made mention of it.
The Cup in the Old Testament
There are several places in the Old Testament that help us answer the question, “What would Jesus drink?” The cup that Jesus stared into in the garden is described in the Old Testament as the cup of judgment and wrath in the following places:
But it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. (Psalm 75:7-8)
Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. (Isaiah 51:17)
Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.” So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it. (Jeremiah 25:15-17)
Most interesting about these three passages is that both Israel and the nations are said to be deserving of the cup of God’s wrath. This parallels Paul’s declaration that both Jew and Gentile are both under sin (Rom. 3:9) and the curse of the Law by nature (Gal. 3:10-13). Jesus’ coming as the substitute Redeemer of his people means that what he did, he did in their place and for their good. He drank the cup that we should have drunk. He took up the cup that we should have taken up. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. He was wounded for our transgressions.